Friday, August 7, 2015
The Rockford Files: Love 'Merican Style
Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
If you’ve read my blog for a few years now… you know that Hollywood needs me. Everything is a reboot of a reboot of a prequel of a sequel… and dare I say that more than half of it just isn’t that good without a few beers in your system. All the while… some great source material is out there that… for whatever reason, Hollywood just won’t jump on to tackle the real issues facing our society… like the Judicial System, Corruption, the role of the Police in Society, Gun Control Laws, and of course Concussion Awareness. It is for that reason, I figured that I would save casting directors in Hollywood some time in bringing forth a story that should… nay, MUST be told… I’m of course referring to…
The Rockford Files - Coming 2016
(queue 2nd season’s funky version of the intro music)
Basic plot outline: Jim Rockford is a former felon turned private investigator who lives in a trailer on a beach in Malibu… and it seems about every week he ends up finding a dead body, getting a concussion & then having to solve some sort of crime to avoid staying out of jail for the rest of his life. Helping him along the way are his dad “Rocky”, his best friend/police contact Dennis, apparently the world’s greatest lawyer Beth Davenport… and then there’s his “friend” Angel who 90% of the time seems to be actively trying to put Jim away in jail or get him killed… yet he’s still around because… you know, plot convenience. Anyway, the show was amazing by 70’s & early 80’s standards… won a bunch of Emmys… and the overall feel while being obviously an action series, was also just dripping with humor… and occasionally a few “very special” episodes that spoke out about problems in society. Now, Izzy & I have spent the past few months watching all six seasons of the show on Netflix (and yes, even four of the TV movies that popped up in the early 90’s) so we’re essentially experts in the world of all things Rockford. So with that in mind, here are my thoughts for who should play the key roles in a modern retelling… and of course Izzy helped immensely… so anything that you don’t agree with the choices, blame her…
Jim Rockford – Vince Vaughn – This one is pretty easy… and apparently he’s been part of a project to make a “Rockford Files” movie for some years now… just nobody seems to really care about it except a small group of badasses. Jim is cool as the other side of the pillow… incredibly witty… has apparently f**ked just about every woman he’s ever met… a Vietnam vet (maybe Gulf War in this retelling) whose somewhat physically imposing… but knows when he’s outmatched physically (or they have guns) & then resorts to fast talking, distractions and often horrible fighting… or just making a dash for his golden Pontiac Firebird, pulling a “Rockford” (reverse 180) and getting the f**k outta there. Brilliant, resourceful, but ultimately realistic. I can totally see Vince rocking this role.
Joseph “Rocky” Rockford – Tommy Lee Jones - Rocky is a retired truck driver who checks in with his son just about every day to go fishing or do some maintenance to either home. He’s the ultimate old school father who works with his hands, loves his son with all of his heart & questions every decision that his son makes… especially on his seemingly permanent bachelorhood. He also has to conceivably play the father of Vince Vaughn… and have some dry comedic chops. Jones fits the bill pretty nicely. There are plenty of other actors that I would really like for this role ranging from my doppleganger Dennis Quaid (tall, maybe too young & good-looking?) to former truck-driver actor Kurt Russell to somebody like Jeff Bridges… or I really like the idea of Michael Keaton or Steve Martin in a role that doesn’t usually take center stage in the story, but is there for a bit of comedic voice of reason.
Sgt. Dennis Becker – Joe Pantoliano - Becker is Jim’s best friend and key contact within the police department to help him out with privileged information, whether information on a case, legality of certain issues, or information like license plates & criminal backgrounds. When they’re not working, they’re usually barbecuing or fishing. He’s funny in a sarcastic sense usually… but his Italian-American mannerisms come out as he’s definitely a force to be reckoned with. He is a good cop after all. In the series, Becker was played by legendary cop actor Joe Santos (“Last Boy Scout” among others) and it’s really one of the highlights of the show. Also, obviously Jon Favreau was considered playing the role being a Vince Vaughn led movie and all… but Becker isn’t there just to be funny… and I don’t want the audience waiting for Jim to say “You’re so money” or something like that. Who else do I like? John Cusack & Steve Buscemi don’t seem like they could be cops… but I like their work. Gary Oldman isn’t funny usually. Mark Ruffalo might work. Josh Duhamel is too distractingly similar to Vince I think… and I basically had to talk myself out of casting Nicolas Cage just because of the mix of the receding hairline & you literally have no idea what could come out of his mouth at any given time.
Beth Davenport – Charlize Theron/Diane Lane – Beth is apparently the GREATEST LAWYER IN THE HISTORY OF LAW!!! Nearly every week, her client / occasional boy toy Jim stumbles upon a dead body or two… unwittingly gets involved in somebody else’s con (“ANGEL!!!”) or involved in some sort of assault… and will barely spend a night in jail while waiting for paperwork to be filed… because Beth is to the rescue… and unlike most lawyers, apparently she accepts payments in sweet lovin’ as opposed to wire transfers. She’s tough. She’s brilliant. She’s gorgeous. She’s a career woman… but she has a soft spot for Jim’s charms… but also, Hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn… especially a woman who plays the Law like a f**king violin. Charlize is in high demand since she starred in “Mad Max” and other great flick… so that’s why I have Diane Lane as my 2nd choice there. Both have that aura of a beautiful, strong, independent, yet vulnerable female. If both are busy… then I’m down with bringing back Ashley Judd or Neve Campbell… but absolutely not Jennifer Aniston… who again I’m sure is who the studio would pick. Nothing really against her… it’s just that I don’t everybody thinking that this is a sequel to “The Break Up” or anything.
Evelyn “Angel” Martin – Mel Gibson – Okay, here me out! First off, Angel is probably my least favorite part of the show. If I had a friend like Angel… I would be mourning my friend Angel. Jim met the lifelong confidence man & hustler named Angel during his time in jail and apparently there’s a lot of brotherly comradery based on events that took place in prison. Maybe Angel saved his life a few times from getting shiv’d or becoming property of the Aryan Brotherhood or something like that… I don’t know the details & it’s probably better that way… so I get the sense of loyalty that Jim feels for Angel. We all have friends like that to a certain extent. However, after the first… I’d say dozen times that he acted maliciously in an attempt to get me killed or take the rap for his wrongdoings… I’d dump his ass… or maybe turn him in to my best buddy Lgt. Becker for a decent collar. I’m just saying. Regardless, in this version, I really like the idea of Mel Gibson playing this erratic con man buddy of Jim’s as kind of a step above a cameo. He’s in a few scenes… a few laughs are involved… and he may come into play later in the movie as a kind of wild card member of the team. Is he going to come through for Jimbo? Or is he just going to leave him high & dry in his time of need, or when the going gets hot? Gibson has been on the outskirts of Hollywood for a few years now, but I also really like the idea of a megastar like Tom Hanks or Edward Norton in this smaller role… but I would assume that in a real life version of this movie, Owen Wilson gets the role to get some “Wedding Crashers” reunion going. Here, you be the judge... try to tell which is which...
Lgt. Doug Chapman – Alec Baldwin – Chapman is Becker’s boss… and they don’t like each other… mainly because Chapman knows that Becker is helping Jim to do what he sees as kind of vigilante police work… and that’s just not acceptable. Baldwin has a commanding presence… and some comedic chops & timing if needed. A close second for me in taking this small but vital (for conflict & turning the story) role… Viggo Mortensen. You want a commanding presence who can strike fear in the Hulk (Ruffalo)? Have you seen “History of Violence”? Ooh… Ed Harris would be good too… anyway, the options are there.
Lgt. Thomas Diehl – Adam Carolla - Although I really liked the idea of Becker being the breakout acting role for Adam Carolla, unfortunately I just don’t think it’s realistic for me to get it signed off with the studio. However, I think that I can get them to sign off on a 2-3 day shoot with the Ace Man as the stern & angry boss of Lgt. Chapman… who may not particularly care for Rockford… but is okay with him as long as the results are there. Otherwise, in the slammer for interfering with police work like anybody else… stern but fair. You know what, you can switch Carolla & Baldwin for all I care, Hollywood… Carolla as Chapman, Baldwin as Diehl… they’d both be small parts in the movie I would think anyway.
Officer Todd – David Duchovny – Officer Todd was the only recurring character on the show that actually dressed like a cop, in full uniform… and he would just kind of show up in the scene, hand off some paperwork to Chapman or Becker, occasionally make a wiseass remark, and then exit stage left. It made me wonder who the actor that played him in the series (Luis Delgado) knew to get that role? Is he related to a producer? Anyway, Duchovny may be a little old to just be a standard officer rank… but then again, maybe he has a history that has restricted him to what amounts to full-garb secretary status. Did he used to date Chapman’s sister? Who knows? Maybe keep it for the sequel…
John “Coop” Cooper – Kevin Bacon – Around Season 5 of the show, Jim meets this disbarred Southern lawyer… and he helps him out (while Beth Davenport is off opening her own firm somewhere else?) with both legal advice AND the occasional grunt work. This may be more of a character for the sequel after my movie pulls in $500 million worldwide on a modest budget (mostly stunt cars & retro digs) and then you could pull in a bigger name like Matthew McConaughey in a small role (2-3 days of shooting) or maybe even Woody Harrelson for a larger role… but I’m going with Bacon.
Gandolph Fitch – Wesley Snipes – One of the great names in fictional history, Gandy is… a “friend” of Jim’s from the joint. That right there should kinda tell you why I picked Snipes for this role… but he was originally portrayed by the late great Isaac Hayes in the original series. Additionally, they don’t really go into depth about their relationship other than Gandy was a bit of an enforcer while on the streets& even in the joint… and would absolutely destroy people in prison who crossed him… and Rockford was a “friend” of his who felt that he owed him. Do you see what I’m getting at here? I kinda think that Jim Rockford was Gandy Fitch’s bitch in the joint. Think about it… that’s why he constantly refers to him as “Rockfish” too. It gets even more twisted when you realize that Jim ends up proving that Gandy went to jail for a crime that he didn’t commit. What does that mean? The justice system once again f**ked Jim Rockford. Literally. Anyway… I think Snipes would be great for the part even though he’s not a towering figure (especially 5’10” compared to 6’5” Vaughn) but I think it could still work… and since the death of Michael Clark Duncan, the other well-known actors are either Will Smith, too small (Terrence Howard, Blair Underwood, Denzel Washington, etc) but you could also put an mid-40s athlete in there… like Shaq (shudder) or maybe more appropriately somebody like LeBron James (between his other movies) or a towering out of work football player… ah hem… Lawrence Taylor is still around, right? Nah, let’s go with Blade! Passenger 57 in the house! NINO BROWN!!!
Lance White – Matt Damon – Tom Selleck played this role in a few episodes of the original series… and that was the inspiration for Magnum P.I. Fun fact: The Rockford Files basically ended on a high note because James Garner was getting too old to do his own stunts… and nobody else is James Garner… and at the same time, Hawaii Five-O was wrapping up… so the producers basically decided to combine the two to make the 80’s magnificence that is Magnum P.I. Anyway, in the Rockford series, Lance White is… basically the perfect private investigator. He’s tall, good-looking, intelligent, suave, successful, award-winning in fact, a fighter, a lover, a true gentleman in every sense… he even marries a f**king heiress… and he’s so perfect that you can’t even f**king stand him. There are plenty of alternative actors in their late 30’s/early 40’s like Leonardo DiCaprio, Jude Law, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Dempsey, Orlando Bloom, hell… maybe Justin Timberlake or Tom Brady that could come in as the super successful version of Vince Vaughn to irk him while helping him out… but I think Matt would do it with a moustache a la Selleck… and that’s really the selling factor for me.
The Movie Plot - Now, I don’t really have the story for the first movie exactly plotted out just yet… but let’s be real, this initial movie will be the starting point for a series on the Fast & Furious level. Typically the episodes / TV movies go one of a few ways. Sometimes there’s a damsel in distress who looks up a private eye in the phone book & sees Jim’s picture so they call him first and they end up crying in his trailer. Honestly, there’s a LOT of episodes that start with “I saw your picture in the phone book” as he was picked at random for some twisted deed. It’s kind of hilarious. Other times Angel will somehow get Jim involved in some kind of con and lets him take the fall… those sometimes involve the Mafia too… the Italian one, not the Gay Mafia. Other times there’s a big evil business man doing big evil stuff (again usually involving the Mafia) or some kind of real estate scam where dead bodies end up. Other times it’s usually a family member of somebody’s suspicious murder where an inheritance is involved (doesn’t sound familiar at all). You can go a lot of different ways with it… and depending on what characters you want to work into the first movie, you can plot it out pretty easily. Maybe focus on the main characters & establishing the world of Rockford with the first… then bring in Gandy for the sequel… and then cap the original trilogy with a little help from Coop and/or Lance White involving some terrorist plot. Escalation!!! Oh wait… as long as the plot is tight & there’s some character development, you don’t need an epic “Heat” style shootout or intergalactic war involved in the movie’s finales. Huh… great box office returns AND saving on budget. That’s why you can cast stuff like…
The Bad Guy – TOM HANKS – YES!!! I want Thomas Jeffery Hanks to be the Bad Guy in the first movie!!! Okay, here we go, just off the top of my head… I’m thinking something along the lines of there’s a damsel (played by Elisabeth Shue) who shows up at Jim’s trailer with the story of a suspicious death of her father… Jim would love to help, but it’s an open police case… and he doesn’t do open police cases… besides, he’s got this big fishing trip up at Lake Arrowhead that he’s been planning with his dad. Damsel starts the waterworks… “well, maybe I can help you out a little bit… tell me more…” Damsel lists a few suspects, Jim offers to look into their activites & see if anything odd… “$200 per day plus expenses (adjust for inflation)” He goes to the police station to get some info on the suspects… including one well-respected businessman (Hanks) who’s even on the board that the police answers to… “Rockford, if I catch you bothering Mr. Sprockets I’ll jerk your ticket!” (or some other outdated ambiguous homoerotic threat Chapman often makes) and the story goes from there. Twists & turns, Jim gets knocked out near a corpse, spends a night in the slammer, Beth breaks him out, he gets some “word on the street” from Angel, maybe has to protect Damsel at a motel, bing bang boom, underlying plot threads are unraveled, final confrontation with bad guy… who ends up flying out of a window somehow… SPLAT! Wise ass remarks, quick resolution, drive off into the sunset with damsel in his Firebird… roll credits… top it off with a sequel beg Easter Egg. You’re welcome, America!!! Worst case, if Hanks doesn't want to be the bad guy (with a Walt Disney moustache mind you) then just insert Nicolas Cage, Christophe Waltz or Bryan Cranston... but I like the idea of Tom Hanks being the evil CEO of Bubba Gump Shrimp or something.
Anyway, just give me a screenwriter’s credit… More of these to come… you’ve been warned… coming soon… have a great weekend everybody!!!